Pages from the Life of a Criminal Cat

Among the various effects and detritus, I am first most interested in Cat’s own words, or those written to him directly by intimates, inasmuch as I would like to believe his take to be somewhat more unfiltered and, even when it appears to be non sequitur, valuable to untangling this affair. The journal entries are for the most part apparently complete, albeit it with lengthy gaps, and neither weighted nor organized according to any notable events, so far as I can see. His writing is startlingly lucid, despite certain flights of description which make it appear he is in fact narrating for an audience, though an audience of what ilk is manifestly unclear. There is a telling, relatively early (at least as far as the dates can be trusted) entry which sheds some light on his style throughout the pages available here. Before I reproduce any entries, though, I am compelled to mention if only so I do not forget, that these journals are distinct from another, cloth-bound volume labeled “Tails,” which I’ll need to address at greater length later. The last oddity, which I doubt very much I’d be likely to resolve even if I wanted to, is that the journals have a smattering of words redacted or emended in what certainly appears to be a distinct hand, as if they were edited somewhere along the way. It is difficult to say how much this practice alters the voice or style of the entries, but as it seems not to have any fundamental effect on the actual content, I’ll leave them intact. Discerning the finer points and justifications for these changes is a rhetorical project best left to someone else.

First entry:

“I have destroyed many pages of these, and I wonder if that was the right thing to do. I did it because I read some of them and every page I turned to was deeply sad. I could look at this a few different ways. I might have been writing the sadness out of myself, although I still felt it when I looked back. I remembered exactly the type of bad feelings arising within me. So if I didn’t get them out, maybe I wanted to remind myself of them. But that’s not very kind or useful either. If it is for other people to discover my sadness, then my ego is larger than even I thought! I think of these notebooks as a friend that I only want to talk to when I am feeling low. That is not good for me, and it is certainly not good for the friend. Perhaps there could be some joy in my sadness, somewhere. I think until I have a place I can rest my head for a week without readying myself to be stolen away, it will be hard to feel much else. But a record is still important, it might not be so sad later. It might be much later, but at some point in time.”

Second entry:

“I find myself sitting inside of someone else’s home, even though no one lives here all the time. There are people around, but no one is in front of me. They’re talking, trying to decide on the best way to proceed, knowing it has all been decided. There are bad feelings, and I’m not used to that. I do not sense that we will pull through this easily, and something might have changed. I can see the insulation on the ceiling, which is not necessary when it is warm, and the ceiling fan spins above me. It interrupts the light. I wonder why it moves so slowly, too slowly to do anything but push the warm air around. There is lots of air being pushed around here.

Around the corner, one of them smokes too quickly. She’s calm and nervous at the same time. She thinks always of the next move, which is smart, especially when you know the current move is going to be completed successfully. She has less and less time for what she calls “nonsense.” She says “no more nonsense.” I like how it sounds, but people get hurt. They need their nonsense, because it is not nonsense to them, not at the moment they say it. I can see the clouds of blue smoke through the open door. There are no windows to the outside here, they are all bricked over. But all the doors inside this place have glass in them, so they have to hang curtains when they want to be alone. So I can see the clouds but not the person. I can almost hear her drag on the cigarette, but there are other sounds.

Around the next corner, past the little smoking porch, is a discussion. It might be an argument, and it might be about the first person. It is beautiful out there, I know it because I was just out there to see the sunset over the fence. Beauty here is tricky, it can sneak up on you if you are not looking for it. I am always looking for it, which makes it hard to be taken by surprise. There is a feeling of mistrust and uncertainty in the air, it mixes with the humidity and hangs there. It is a feeling that is familiar to me, but not here. Here there are strong emotions, but they mostly concern the project, which is the project of getting me to a place where I can get on with some kind of life. That is what The Professor would say. Some kind of life. Let’s find you some kind of life.

This could get much worse. I can hear a voice crackle and another bubble in response. That usually is bad. It means someone is upset and someone else cannot bring themselves to take it seriously. So they console. This is the wrong kind of consolation. I am wearing my pointed burgundy shoes, red like wine, and the divan is a little sticky from the damp air. People in the crew know exactly what to expect when it comes time to work. Always. But tonight people do not know what to expect between now and the event, and that is scary. It may make for a bad job, or it might force us to concentrate even more. I trust them, that is important. But it is still a bit scary.

——————

The thing is done. I am spent out, there is nothing left of me. Enough maybe for a little pipe smoke and a few quiet words about it. The calm has been restored, but it is hollow. It is the calm of exhaustion alone. Still, people are lighter now. Aunt Sandy can celebrate, as she should. Precarious and she can embrace and we will think about the next one. We can ignore our errors and indignities to one another and concentrate on the next thing. It will take a few of these to get what we need. Caprese and Precarious are inspiring, in the way that two people in love should be. Sparkles and Reich and Moist disappeared, and that is right also. We are better off to have Billy One-Shoe hopping about somewhere. People should drink now, we can wonder about all the rest later. The fan is still spinning. It is not quite as beautiful outside as it was before. The couch is still a little sticky, and I should find my bed. Remember: do not take things so seriously. Or else take them much, much more seriously. It seems to be a waste of time to be somewhere in the middle.”

There are a variety of letters as well, few of them in envelopes, some of them folded up quite small. I include this one only because it was stuck to the back of the preceding journal page, which is about as good an ordering principle as any at this stage. It looks to be written in a different hand from the pieces above, although we already have the problem of two sets of handwriting interacting on those. As such, I present, again with minimal comment, a letter, most likely written to Cat In The Hat:

My Love,

Have I told you about that dream? It’s almost unreal, sometimes implausible at best, it’s the one that wonders about a better way, or what might have been, but it’s close enough that it still seems it might all come to pass? If I haven’t, now might be the time, because it’s nearly driven me mad how often it crowds my mind in the dark. In fact, that’s not even quite right: it’s true that I think about it, or it overwhelms me, when I’m laying in the dark, wishing it was darker, staring at the ceiling or the corners of the room. But then again, I’m not asleep now, I’m sitting in a sticky cotton shirt, scratching my head even though it doesn’t really itch, and staring at my own shadow projected from motion-activated lights behind me onto the white siding of my temporary home. It’s a dream whose focus sharpens when I talk about certain aspects of this life that make me uncomfortable, and reminds me that the fact that I’m even thinking about them signifies that it might be different, however unlikely that sounds as I say it. It tells me that even if fortune never smiles on us again, one day we might smile on each other in the knowledge that we everything we could think of to improve the parts of the world around us which needed improving. Sometimes the dream is warm and welcoming, other times it is cool and reminds me that it is a dream which will require effort to actualize. In all cases, we smile, and we kiss one another’s forehead. It is important to have an active imagination, you taught me that long ago. Those who toil against injustice and ugliness without being able to imagine another way are screaming into the wind. And those who create without purpose, and there are far, far too many of them, are dangerous in the worst ways. They are the sleepers, not the dreamers.

I know you’re with me, and if this finds you, then I am with you,

XxX

But what can it mean? Anything? Nothing? Just the remnants of a life lived? It is all collected, though, and that must be worth something. Someone thought enough of it for that. It is enough to make one wonder if their own corpus would be worthy of tabulation one day…what would that shoebox look like? What sort of picture would it paint?